Smith & Wesson is as American as apple pie, and one could even argue that they are an American tradition.
From revolvers to ARs to duty handguns, Smith & Wesson is definitely a jack of all trades. One of the company’s most successful lineups is the M&P series.
And today, we’re going to dive into the M&P line, look at its history, and walk you through some of the notable models you might want to consider.
Summary of Our Top Picks
Table of Contents
A Brief History
M&P handguns were introduced in 2005 as Smith & Wesson’s new line of polymer pistols. They were pretty revolutionary for the times.
With a rubberized grip, hinged trigger, fish scale serrations, and interchangeable backstraps, the M&P was definitely on the cutting edge of handgun technology in the early 2000s.
In its first year, the M&P gained over 100 Law Enforcement contracts. Unfortunately, it never quite gained the foothold needed to surpass Glock in popularity.
Enter the M&P 2.0. It was better than the first generation in almost every way.
The next-gen quietly broke the “you get what you pay for” mold. In reality, the second iteration of S&W duty handguns delivered your money’s worth and then some.
Some upgrades included: a steel frame insert, front slide serrations, improved slide stop, improved fire control group, and a significantly improved grip texture.
Each upgrade the M&P 2.0 brought added tons of functionality to an already great gun.
With a full lineup of over 22 variants (and rifles) to choose from, there’s plenty to pique your interest. So let’s get to it!
Best Smith & Wesson M&P Models
1. Performance Center M&P 9 M2.0
This is a no-brainer. The best M&P offering is, without a doubt, the Performance Center M&P9 M2.0.
As the name suggests, the Performance Center M&P9 M2.0 is built for performance.
This is the top shelf of M&Ps. It has a ported slide and barrel, fiber optic sights, and a finely tuned trigger. Most importantly, it’s optics ready out of the box.
Now, these guns are not what anyone would call popular among competition shooters, but they are not looked down upon either.
Instead, they are – sort of — just forgotten. Occasionally, you might see some people running these here and there.
What really makes the PC M&P9 M2.0 a force to be reckoned with is that it takes a gun that’s already great out of the box and tunes it to be phenomenal.
It’s modernized and optimized something that was already “good enough.”
2. M&P .380 Shield EZ
At first glance, the M&P .380 Shield EZ can seem a little underwhelming. Like many other shooters, I dismissed it. I thought it was useless.
Boy, was I wrong!
After helping a friend teach a few handgun classes and going to the range with a few of my friends, I saw the glory that is the Shield EZ.
Our bodies are all different. This is the one challenge that all shooters face sooner or later. Most of us immediately relate this to mechanics.
Rightfully so, but one mechanic many shooters overlook is racking the slide. There is no way to shoot without doing it, and you’ve got to do it at least once. It comes so easily to most folks that it often goes undiscussed.
Sadly, this can be extremely discouraging for shooters with weaker grip strength or health conditions. In fact, they’re pretty much forgotten by the majority of the gun industry.
Smith & Wesson to the rescue!
The M&P Shield EZ was specifically designed with this demographic in mind. Redesigned from the ground up, the M&P Shield EZ is, in my opinion, one of Smith & Wesson’s greatest ideas to date.
With a grip safety, tactile loaded chamber indicator, and easy load magazine, the Shield EZ is definitely the odd man out. It sure doesn’t look like its brothers and sisters, but that’s because it serves a different purpose!
On top of serving people who might have trouble racking slides or managing recoil, the EZ serves a secondary group…those that like a manual safety.
The M&P Shield EZ fills that niche perfectly with both a grip and manual safety.
Added bonus? No hinged trigger to deal with.
Even if you don’t fall into the target audience, the Shield EZ is a logic-defyingly fun gun to shoot with a very soft recoil impulse.
Next time you hit the range, try one out and see if it’s worth a second look. It certainly changed my mind.
For a full look into the Shield EZ, read our review here or check out the video review below!
What do you think of the EZ? Rate it below!
3. M&P9 M2.0 Compact
Glock 19 Killer? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
The compact M&P9 M2.0 is plain jane. That is not necessarily a bad thing, though.
It is the Smith and Wesson equivalent to the Glock 19. A true workhorse…range toy, concealed carry, competition rig, whatever — this M&P variant will get the job done, often cheaper than its competitors.
One thing is certain; the M&P9 M2.0 holds its own with the big dogs like Glock and Sig.
As previously mentioned, the M&P 9 M2.0 has tons of functional upgrades from its prior generation. Boasting its aggressive grip, great trigger, metal (as opposed to Glock plastic) sights, and fish-scale serrations, the M&P M2.0 is a beast for the price.
Compacts can handle pretty much any situation that needs to be handled between “needing a gun” and “needing a rifle.”
While this model doesn’t come with a ported barrel and slide or an optic-ready slide, the namesake M&P9 with an upgraded trigger is hard to beat!
Want to read more? We got you! Check out our review of the M&P9 M2.0 here.
4. M&P 45 Shield M2.0
Two WORLD WARS! IT CAN STOP A BEAR! 9MM, BUT FOR MEN!
Now that we’ve lost the interest of literally everyone else in the gun community, here is one for the .45 fanboys.
The M&P 45 Shield M2.0 is a beast of a concealed carry gun. It’s slightly larger than its 9mm counterpart and only holds one less round.
This little pocket gun can carry six to seven rounds of .45 ACP. That’s pretty substantial! Not to mention, its grip texture is more aggressive than the 9mm shield variant.
Designed and optimized for concealed carry, the Smith & Wesson M&P 45 Shield M2.0 is the perfect concealed carry gun for boomers and 45 fanboys alike.
5. M&P Bodyguard .380
We’ve all experienced times that we wish we had a little something extra. Walking down a dark alleyway, going for a nighttime jog, or even just taking out the trash on a particularly dark night.
Maybe a gun? No, too inconvenient for such a minor task. A bodyguard? No, too expensive. Well, what if you could have both? (Sorry for the dad joke.)
The Bodyguard .380 may look like a toy, but it’s a seriously potent firearm. If you say you’ve never fantasized about an ultra-concealable gun for high-speed and imaginary spy missions, you’re lying.
It can fit in the palm of your hand or a pocket. Hell, it could even fit in your socks (although I don’t recommend this). The bodyguard is perfect for summertime carry or shooters with small hands.
The trade-off to having such a concealable weapon is that it will take some extra training to acclimate yourself to shooting such a small firearm.
You can, however, shorten the learning curve a bit by getting a Crimson Trace Laser model.
For more deets, read our review here!
6. The Hushpuppy
If you ever plan on suppressing your handguns, this M&P variant should definitely be on your radar.
When a gun fires, there are a few different noises that are emitted. Obviously, you have the sound of the bullet breaking the sound barrier, but you also have the sound of the slide cycling, as well as port noise.
The Hush Puppy Project remixed the M&P to have a slide lock feature that effectively eliminates the two other noises.
This means that, with a can, this M&P is the quietest handgun on the market. It also comes with a threaded barrel, so… you already know what time it is.
Sneki Snek Mode: Activated.
7. M&P Sport II
The M&P Sport II is one of S&W’s more budget offerings, but don’t let that be a knock against it!
This 5.56 chambered AR-15 is worth your attention. It features a 16-inch barrel length with an overall length of 35-inches. Weighing in at 103.2 ounces, the Sport II is great for home protection, hunting, and just plain ole shooting.
There isn’t really anything that stands out about the Sport II — good or bad. It’s a very basic mil-spec AR-15, but S&W made it well.
If you’re looking for a functional, reliable rifle that will leave enough cash in your account for lots of ammo and a sling — the M&P Sport II is absolutely a rifle you should consider!
Ergonomics, accuracy, and reliability are good for the price, and you can always upgrade.
Read our full thoughts on it, or check out the video below!
Smith & Wesson did a bang-up job with the M&P line. It’s a shame that it hasn’t quite achieved the level of popularity as other duty guns in the marketplace.
Personally, I think it is about time that the M&P gets its flowers. I mean. Let’s be real. The M&P checks off all the boxes, and it does it well.
The bottom line is that M&P is good to go out of the box.
What’s your favorite M&P model? Let us know in the comments below. Interested in another Smith & Wesson, that’s not an M&P? Check out our review of the Smith & Wesson CSX.